An independent film company is beginning work on a movie about Thurgood Marshall – a civil rights pioneer who later became the nation’s first black Supreme Court justice – and its courtroom and other scenes may be shot in Buffalo.
At the request of the Buffalo Film Commission, Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., Thursday asked the U.S. General Services Administration to allow the movie’s producers to shoot the courthouse scenes in Buffalo’s vacant Michael J. Dillon Courthouse.
In a letter to Denise Pease, the agency’s regional administrator, Schumer said the Depression-era courthouse “is a natural spot to film this movie, as it perfectly captures the courthouse setting that was the backdrop to Marshall’s transformative legal career.”
Schumer told Pease that the film company also is considering other locations for a 26-day shoot, which would include 12 days of shooting courtroom scenes.
If the producers decide to shoot the film in Buffalo, local labor would be used on the project, and other scenes would be shot elsewhere in Buffalo, he added. The film would be shot in May.
“The film would also feature the magnificent, historic architecture of Buffalo, N.Y., and draw positive attention to the Dillon Courthouse, which has yet to attract a developer since becoming vacant in 2011,” Schumer added.
Neither Schumer nor the Buffalo Film Commission offered many other details about the film, although some were available on the imbd.com website, which tracks movies past, present and future.
The website said “Marshall” will star Chadwick Boseman, who previously appeared as baseball barrier-breaker Jackie Robinson in “42” and as soul legend James Brown in “Get On Up.” The director will be Reginald Hudlin, who previously directed “House Party” and “Boomerang” and produced Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.”
The film is “about a young Thurgood Marshall, the first African American Supreme Court justice, as he battles through one of his career-defining cases,” the website said.
Based in his hometown of Baltimore, Marshall represented the NAACP in several of its ground-breaking civil rights cases, including Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, the landmark 1955 case that ended segregation in public education.
President Lyndon Johnson appointed Marshall to the Supreme Court in 1967 and he served on the bench until 1991. He died two years later at the age of 84.
A General Services Administration spokesman did not answer questions about the prospects for approving the use of the Buffalo courthouse for the film, but the spokesman also pointed out a GSA blog post that made such approvals seem routine.
“Every year, our federal office buildings, courthouses, land ports of entry, and historic landmarks are featured in major motion pictures,” said the blog post, noting that such films brought the federal government $370,000 in rental income in fiscal 2011 alone.
Buffalo Film Commissioner Tim Clark acknowledged seeking Schumer’s help for securing the use of the courthouse, which has been vacant ever since the opening of the new Robert H. Jackson U.S. Courthouse, also on Niagara Square.
“It’s a fairly large movie,” Clark said. “We’re hoping to get it.”
“Marshall” would join several movies that have been shot in Buffalo over the years, including the baseball classic “The Natural” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows,” which may or may not prove to be a classic after it is released in June.